4 min read

Taking a risk

Taking risks has led me to some of the most exciting things and experiences of my life. I made a lot of mistakes and failed a lot along the way in my career. But, in the end, everything worked out well.
Taking a risk
Me serving tables, March 2011

I dropped out of university when I was 18 years old. I aspired to be a web designer, creating apps and websites for the internet. My gut instinct told me that this is something that people would need in the future we were heading towards.

For eight months, I've been struggling and hoping to learn something that will help me build skills and prepare for the future job that I've been looking for.

However, the educational system failed me. Learning things unrelated to my profession and listening to old professors who studied computers in the 70s-80s did not teach me what I expected to learn. So I quit.

I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life. I was dissatisfied with the educational system and didn't understand why I had to learn things that had nothing to do with my profession.

I wasn't sure if I still enjoyed coding. I didn’t know what to do with my life anymore.

I started working as a waiter in a local pizzeria to make some money while I figure out what I want to do with my life.

As I realized later, 14 hours per day, 7 days per week, every other week schedule didn't work for me either. But I learned an important lesson: I don't want to live my life that way.

As a teenager, I was making some money and doing well; all of my friends advised me to stay and work hard to advance. But I quit again.

My parents were disappointed. My friends thought I was insane.

But I was convinced that I was capable of more.

Every time I dropped out of university, quit my jobs (when I had them), began working with international clients, raised my rates, or started a business, everyone around me, my family and friends, told me that it was such a risk and that I would not be able to find anything better.

Taking risks has led me to some of the most exciting things and experiences of my life. I made a lot of mistakes and failed a lot along the way in my career. But, in the end, everything worked out well.

Life shrinks and expands in direct proportions of you willing to take risks. — Casey Neistat

How to take risks?

Never stop learning

Information is your best friend. The more you know about a subject, the less risky your efforts will be in the end.

Develop your expertise in your field. Discover how people use the products or services you offer, as well as their motivations and pain points.

The more you learn, the less the unknowns become. In the end, it is the unknowns that make an action risky.

Being a competent risk-taker requires evaluating a scenario and judging whether or not the risk is justified.

Learn from failures

Recognize that all risks are learning opportunities. Particularly the ones that don't work.

In certain cases, failure is more beneficial than victory.

While failures may not enhance your end result, you may take the chance to learn what went wrong, where you went wrong, and how you can improve going forward in the future.

According to Mark Zuckerberg, "The greatest risk is not taking any risks. In a world that is always changing, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks."

Let go of what others think

Stop living the life you believe others expect you to live and start living the one you truly desire.

It will be a lot easier to take risks in life if you aren't always worried about disappointing people or embarrassing yourself.

If you're getting a lot of opposition from your friends and family regarding your actions, consider talking to them about it.

You can try to explain your decisions to others, but don't feel obligated to do it to anyone other than yourself.

In the end, it's you, not them, who want to live a better life.

Start small

There's no need to take a big risk right away! Starting with modest risks can help you develop your risk tolerance and give you the courage to take more of them.

You can begin by just saying yes to any and all opportunities that catch your eye, rather than attempting to create new possibilities for yourself immediately. Accept an offer to work on a new project at work, for example. If someone offers you to attempt a new sport with them, go ahead and do it even if it's not something you'd normally do.

Another method to start small is to take a single step toward the risk you wish to take. For example, if you want to explore scuba diving but are too terrified, take a modest step in the right path by snorkeling in a pool.

Avoid reckless risks

I'm always surprised by people who are afraid to put their money into a business or start doing what they love, but they don't attach their seat belts when driving.

Some risks, such as driving drunk are never worthwhile.

Risks that endanger others are typically not worth it. It is not your place to harm other people's safety.

Risky sports such as skydiving may be an exception to this rule. For some, the adrenaline rush and true delight may be worth the danger. For some, this may appear to be a reckless gamble.

Endnote

Risk-taking is the only way to go from where you are to where you want to be. Even unsuccessful risks get you closer to achieving your goal if you can transform them into important learnings and a strategy for improving your outcomes the following time.